Comedy Central was either fantastically perceptive or fantastically lucky when it choose Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for its shows. I remember when they started and I remember that few people thought that either one would succeed. And that absolutely nobody predicted what they would become by the time they left.
The Slate writer, Willa Paskin, does eventually get around to the admission that she’s comparing Noah in his early days to Stewart at his end apotheosis, about 18 paragraphs too late. First years of shows almost never are revealing. The Daily Show started in 1999 and it didn’t get its stride until well into the 2000 election cycle. Yeah, that was a different time and nobody is patient today. Larry Wilmore was terrible four months into his first year. Despite what Willa Paskin says, his show is still only occasionally good.
It may be that nobody could have followed Jon Stewart. Keeping the format identical was probably a mistake. To be honest, I like a lot of what Noah does, but you may be right that a U.S. political insider would be better. But who? How many better candidates were there? We saw a million names and not one of them was another Jon Stewart.
Neither Noah nor Wilmore are being helped much by their correspondents either. TDS started with Colbert and Steve Carell and soon got John Oliver and part-timers like Lewis Black and Kristen Schall and John Hodgman. None of the newer ones are at their level; something we’ve complained about here since long before Stewart left.
Jay Leno wasn’t Johnny Carson and Stephen Colbert is now finding out that he isn’t David Letterman. Whether they became or will become good is pretty much besides the point. TDS probably should have ended when Stewart left. Nobody will ever be happy with it again.